For many people, winter road trips are necessary to visit family or friends. During the 2018 holiday season alone, 54.3 million Americans traveled 50 miles or more. For others, winter road trips are an opportunity for sightseeing and adventure. Whether you are embarking on a journey to visit loved ones or experience new things, here are four tips for winter road trips you should follow to ensure a successful experience.
1. Be Prepared
Make sure both you and your vehicle are prepared for your winter road trip. Before you leave, take your car in for a tune-up and replace your tires if necessary. Once your vehicle is cleared for travel, pack your car using this winter road trip checklist for a safe and enjoyable experience:
- Cell phone and charger
- GPS and paper map
- Ice scraper
- Winter coat, hat, boots and gloves
- Jumper cables
- A flashlight
- A portable air compressor
- Food and water
- A shovel or snowplow
- Sand or cat litter to help with traction if you get stuck
2. Understand How to Drive in the Snow
Before you head out on your winter road trip, check the weather. If possible, avoid driving at night, during rush hour traffic or while experiencing heavy snowfall or freezing rain.
You should also make sure you know how to drive safely in winter conditions:
- Know your route: Study your route ahead of time to avoid unexpected winding roads or steep hills. You should also monitor your route closely for possible road closures or warnings.
- Keep your gas tank full: Avoid letting your gas tank get below half-full. Should you break down or pull over during inclement weather, you need as much gas as possible to stay warm until it is safe to travel again.
- Do not forget about black ice: Black ice is a term used for roadways covered in invisible ice. Roads with frequent traffic and direct sunlight are usually the safest option. Be careful near cold, shaded areas or parts of the road near water, such as bridges. Should you encounter black ice, do not hit your brakes or attempt to steer away. Instead, keep a firm grip on your steering wheel and wait until your car comes to a complete stop.
- Avoid cruise control: Avoid using cruise control on slick roadways, as this can quickly result in loss of control.
- Increase your following distance: Increase the following distance between you and fellow drivers by several seconds.
- Use momentum to get over hills: When you approach a hill, use inertia to get over it. Avoid accelerating as you navigate it and never hit your brakes while on an incline.
3. Take It Slow
Take it slow while you are on the road. Remember, it takes more time to accelerate, slow down and come to a complete stop in winter weather. When driving on ice-covered roads, try to avoid braking entirely. Instead, keep a slow, steady pace.
Slowing down means you have more time to enjoy the sights and experiences your road trip has to offer. Take in the beautiful winter scenery as you find new places to explore.
4. Always Give Yourself Extra Time
It often takes longer to get to your destination in the winter, so you should always over-estimate the miles you can cover during your winter road trip. Plan time for stops and any weather emergencies. If you’re traveling to a place you frequent during the summer, check on alternate routes if needed to avoid snow-covered back roads. Keep in mind that you will probably not be able to travel at the same pace on the highways as you typically do during the spring, summer or fall months.
Make KOA Your Home Base
Consider spanning your road trip over several days to take your winter adventure to the next level. With nearly 500 locations across North America, there is a KOA wherever your winter road trip takes you. Learn more about different KOA lodging options and reserve your stay today.